Who is the greatest tournament coach since 1985, when the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams? According to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, it is not Mike Krzyzewski or Jim Calhoun, it is Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, and based on the statistics used by writer Neil Payne, it isn’t particularly close.
Using a statistic called “wins above expectation,” Payne determined that Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans have outperformed their seed by a margin of +14.6, 3.5 wins ahead of second place finisher Rick Pitino. Kentucky’s John Calipari finished third with +10.3 WAE, while Mike Krzyzewski is all the way down at No. 19 with +4.4. Obviously, having a high seed year after year makes it more difficult to compile wins above expectation, which explains the low number for some.
Here is the full chart:
— Kevin Pauga (@KevinPauga) March 24, 2015
Payne put Izzo’s crazy number further into perspective:
Izzo’s performance is almost seven standard deviations above average, lending further credence to Nate’s assertion that Izzo isn’t simply the outlier you’d expect to naturally arise in a data set of 523 coaches. Rather, there seems to be something very real — whether it’s coaching, or perhaps recruiting the types of players whose styles suit March Madness — about Izzo’s ability to take his Michigan State teams much further in the tournament than the numbers or seedings say they ought to go.
Izzo’s team is doing it again this year. His seven-seed Spartans are favored over Oklahoma in Friday’s Sweet 16 match-up, and are two wins away from their seventh Final Four.